Call for solidarity among shack dwellers

2 10 2009

October 01, 2009 Edition 1 – The Mercury
NTOKOZO MFUSI & NOMPUMELELO MAGWAZA

THE leaders of Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers’ movement) at the Kennedy Road Informal Settlement in Sydenham, Durban, are calling for solidarity and support from academics, churches and human rights groups worldwide in what they say is their struggle to survive in the face of attacks against the movement.
Abahlali president S’bu Zikode, who is in hiding after his home was demolished and looted in mob attacks at the weekend, said: “In this time, when we are scattered among the Sydenham jail, hospitals, the homes of relatives and comrades, or sleeping in the bushes in the rain, we are asking for solidarity.”

The movement believes it is the target of attacks instigated by ANC leaders and the police. This has been disputed by the ANC and police.

A video apparently showing the Saturday night attack, which claimed the lives of two men, was posted on YouTube yesterday. The police said the men had been accused of being criminals and were attacked by vigilantes.

KwaZulu-Natal sociologist Mary de Haas said it was clear from the footage that the attackers had targeted the movement. Zikode’s wife and daughter were seen fleeing from the area and their home had been demolished.

De Haas said she be lieved the attacks were aimed at breaking up the movement because it was apolitical.

Slum Dweller’s International director Joel Bolnick said: “These attacks come as no surprise. They mirror similar acts regularly perpetrated against slum dwellers throughout the world.”

A march supporting Abahlali and protesting against the attacks was held by the London Coalition Against Poverty in London yesterday.

Meanwhile, delivering the Steve Biko Memorial Lecture at Durban University of Technology yesterday, veteran anti-apartheid activist Saths Cooper, now chairman of Medicover, said the attacks could be attributed to an inferiority complex and fear.

“If the people of Kennedy Road can be made aware of the fact that they are equally important, then they will not see the need to attack the mirror image of themselves,” said Cooper.

He said the sense of humanity should be bestowed on all South Africans, poor and rich, so that people could look at themselves with pride.

“The past has still trapped us under the inferiority cloud that makes us fear each other,” he said.

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